Special Report

19 Reasons Why Friday the 13th Still Scares Us

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Science has been able to explain many of the phenomena that have stoked fears and suspicions in people. Even so, superstitions still prevail in the modern world such as bad luck that would follow if you crossed paths with a black cat, broke a mirror, or walked under a ladder. Some superstitions are particular to a state or a region. Here are crazy legends and superstitions people believe in every state.

Most of us laugh off these fears. Hollywood has even capitalized on Friday the 13th by creating a horror movie franchise with that name. But there is still a reservoir of concern about Friday the 13th. With the next Friday the 13th on Sept. 13, 24/7 Tempo looked into why this date still gives us pause. We reviewed sources — such as Live Science and the National Geographic — to compile a list of reasons why the date has become synonymous with bad luck, and examples of the bizarre misfortune that has befallen people on that date throughout history.

Click here to read why Friday the 13th still scares us.

Years often have at least one Friday the 13th, and this year we have two, first in September, then in December. This has been so since the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Another curious fact emerges since we’ve been using the Gregorian calendar: The 13th falls on Friday more often than on any other day of the week.

You’ve probably heard of triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13. Friday the 13th has its own phobia — paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia. Fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in Judeo-Christian and Western tradition, although no one is really certain how it started. In the distant past, Friday was an unlucky day for criminals who faced the gallows that day. In the Middle Ages, weddings were not held on Friday the 13th. The number 13 is viewed warily because numerologists consider it an incomplete number, as opposed to complete numbers such as 12. At some point, the ill-omened day and number were combined.

One estimate puts the percentage of paraskevidekatriaphobes at 8%. These are people who won’t travel on that day, make important decisions, or even leave their home. Historian Donald Dassey said Friday the 13th costs the world economy as much as $900 million because people don’t conduct business as they normally would.

Some have chosen to flout the bad luck associated with the day. Since 1995, Finland has selected one Friday the 13th each year as a national Accident Day, intended to focus on safety in the workplace and on the roads.

The day isn’t unlucky for everyone though. Since 2003, Michigan lottery players have won the Mega Million jackpot on Friday the 13th on four different occasions. Their winnings totaled nearly $200 million. These are the weirdest superstitions people believe will bring wealth.

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1.13th guest at Last Supper

Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest at the Last Supper.


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2. Crucifixion on Friday

In Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified on a Friday, which by that time was the day criminals were hanged, so Friday was considered a day of dread. Christian culture would in time combine the number 13 with Friday as an unlucky day.

Source: Getty Images

3. 13 is an incomplete number

In numerology, 12 is considered a complete number — 12 apostles, 12 major Greek gods, 12 hours in half a day, 12 inches in a foot, 12 jurors — whereas 13 is not.

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4. Eve tempted Adam on a Friday

In biblical tradition, Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday.


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5. Cain killed Abel on a Friday

Another Bible tradition holds that Cain murdered Abel on a Friday.

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6. 13th Norse god is god of mischief

Even though superstition about the number 13 is deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition, other cultures are wary of the number as well. In Norse mythology, 12 gods were having a party in Valhalla. They were joined by a 13th god, Loki, the god of mischief, who had the Norse god of joy Baldur shot with a deadly mistletoe-tipped arrow. Baldur died and the world became consumed in grief.


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7. Knights persecuted

Claiming they were heretics, French King Philip IV rounded up thousands of Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307, and tortured them. This is one of the earliest ill-omen associations of Friday with the 13th day of the month.

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8. Chaucer referenced Friday as unlucky

The great English writer Geoffrey Chaucer referenced Friday as unlucky in “The Canterbury Tales.” In “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” Chaucer wrote, “And on a Friday fell all this mischance.”

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9. Power of suggestion

Because the belief that bad things happen on Friday the 13th is so embedded in our culture, our fears are reinforced, imposing more anxiety on us — a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. “It is like telling someone they are cursed,” said Dr. Caroline Watt of the University of Edinburgh, in a story in the British newspaper The Telegram. “If they believe they are cursed, then they will worry, their blood pressure will go up, and they put themselves at risk.”


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10. FDR feared 13

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said in his first inaugural address that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” However, the nation’s 32nd president also had an irrational fear of the number 13. He would not travel on the 13th day of any month and refused to host a meal with 13 guests. Other noted triskaidekaphobics are Napoleon, Herbert Hoover, and the horror-novel writer Stephen King.

Source: Wikipedia

11. Kitty Genovese raped and stabbed

On Friday, March 13, 1964, bar manager Kitty Genovese was raped and murdered at her apartment building in Queens. Newspaper reports said neighbors witnessed the attack but did not call the police. The episode has been cited in psychological studies as an example of “bystander effect” or “Kitty Genovese syndrome” in which people fail to act because they assume someone else will.


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12. Deadly cyclone in East Pakistan

One of the deadliest natural disasters in history occurred on Friday, November 13, 1970, in East Pakistan, which today is called Bangladesh. A tropical cyclone struck the country and killed at least 300,000 people. Besides winds that reached 115 mph, the shallow geography created a storm surge of 16 feet, according to a 1970 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sweeping away thousands of people.

Source: Wikimedia

13. 2 plane crashes on same day in 1972

Friday, October 13, 1972, is one of the blackest days in recent times because of two tragic plane crashes. The first was the well-known story of an Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes Mountains because of a navigational mistake. The survivors eventually resorted to cannibalism, as described in the book and movie “Alive.” Not so well known was the crash that same day of an Ilyushin-62 plane near an airport in Moscow that killed 174 people. The cause of that tragedy has never been determined, however, the Aviation Safety Network (ASN) considered the possibility that the pilot may have lost control because lightning struck the plane.

Source: Needpix.com

14. Italian cruise ship hits reef

On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship struck a reef off the Tuscan coast, causing the massive vessel to tilt. Passengers were first evacuated by lifeboat and helicopter. Despite rescue efforts, 32 people perished. The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was arrested on multiple manslaughter charges and for abandoning the ship instead of supervising the evacuation.


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15. Kansas flood in 1951

On Friday, July 13, 1951, records for flooding in Kansas were broken, following days of relentless rainfall. In Topeka, the Kansas River rose almost 41 feet, which was almost 15 feet above the flood stage. In Manhattan, Kansas, water was 8 feet deep. The National Weather Service said it was the worst single day of flood destruction up until that date. Flooding claimed the lives of 28 people. The Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service put the cost of the damage at $935 million.

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16. 13-year-old boy hit by lightning

While attending an air show in Suffolk, England, a 13-year-old boy was struck by lightning on August 13, 2010, at 1:13. In military time, that is 13:13. He survived with minor burns to his shoulder.


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17. 22 inches of snow in Buffalo — in October

The city of Buffalo is no stranger to massive snowfalls. Because of its location, it is susceptible to lake-effect snow that can pound the Great Lakes region. But city residents weren’t ready for the snowfall that occurred on Friday, October 13, 2006. That storm walloped Buffalo with as many as 22 inches of snow. Other nearby towns got 24 inches. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 1 million people were without power for a week. The National Weather Service said “Words cannot [do] justice to the astounding event which opened the 2006-07 season.” Fifteen deaths were either directly or indirectly attributed to the storm.

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18. A very unlucky Welshman

Bob Rephrey of Wales, a former bus driver, is one unlucky man. On more than one Friday the 13th, he walked through a plate glass door, lost his job, bashed his wife accidentally with a stick he was throwing to his dog, and his wife fell down a flight of stairs. Rephrey chose to spend subsequent Friday the 13ths in bed to avoid misfortune.

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19. Daredevil dies in leap from falls

Long before daredevils like Evel Knievel, Sam Patch was one of America’s first death-defiers. A mill worker by trade, Patch regaled spectators by leaping from Niagara Falls twice. He attempted to jump from the Genesee Falls into the Genesee River in Rochester, New York, on Friday, November 13, 1829, before a crowd of 10,000. He failed to emerge from the river that day and four months later his body was found.

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